Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pumpkin and chocolate muffins, or, the return of the prodigal snack

About ten years ago I worked as a baker-bot at a well known inner city café whose speciality was enormous pumpkin and chocolate muffins (aka the PCM). By speciality, I mean we would have people drive in from hours away and buy a dozen at a time so that they could take them back home and freeze them, or maybe lay them out on the floor and roll around on them, I don’t know. The novelty factor of something sweet with pumpkin (Americans: pumpkin = savoury), combined with masses of chocolate chunks and a rich fudgey texture meant they were like crack to discerning baked goods fans. The mix would be made in enormous batches – 6-8 large, thigh-height containers at a time – out of industrial quantities of flour, frozen pumpkin puree, broken up Richfield’s chocolate offcuts, oil, and egg-in-a-wine-bladder, all mixed with a giant paddle attached to an electric drill, then frozen. The buckets - which were really fucking heavy -  would be dragged back out of the the deep freeze, and the mix would be scooped out using icecream scoops and cooked dozens at a time then left in the prover to stay moist. It was both disgusting and wonderful and a total guilty pleasure, even once you’d seen them being made.

The asshole boss sold the café and was replaced by a douchebag boss, and some time after I left he realised that hospitality is way harder than it looks and flicked the café on to someone else, and over the courseof a couple of name changes the café went from being freaky, 90s and Portlandia-ish, open all night, manned by weirdos and blaring inappropriate music at 7am, to being millennial, expensive and shiny and much like everything else on offer. The PCMs changed /downsized / lost their mojo. Then the café was earthquaked and presumably(?) mojo muffins are no more. (Incidentally, many years on, asshole boss came into my place of retail-work and walked out with - i.e. shoplifted - a bunch of stock! Once a slimy prick, always a slimy prick.)

I have no idea what the actual recipe was, partly because it was PROPRIETARY INFORMATION and a bit of a secret, and partly because I don’t know what ‘two boxes of pumpkin, the blue mug full of cinnamon and twelve scoops of sugar’ translates to in terms of cups and grams. This has many more ingredients than the original because that’s how it worked out. They are not quite the same but close enough for them to be siblings with a very strong family resemblance. Feel free to play around and let me know if you make any great improvements.

This recipe is big and makes 12 café sized muffins (or 18 normal sized ones), but will half easily if you want something that’s a little less indulgent. If you don’t like pumpkin, or can be fucked cooking, cooling, mashing and measuring it, you can switch it out for 4 mashed bananas.

Top tip – cook up some pumpkin when you’re roasting it or making soup, and stick it in pre-measured increments in zip lock freezer bags. Look at you being all domestic god-like.

Totally not proprietary pumpkin and chocolate muffins 
  • 1 C of sugars of your choosing (I use a mix of brown and raw)
  • 170g butter
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 pottle / 150ml yoghurt (or similar dairy – sour cream, crème fraiche)
  • 2c cooked butternut squash (or similar), mashed or pureed
  • 3c plain flour
  • 1c wholemeal flour (for texture, not health)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 2t baking soda
  • 2 T cinnamon (yes, tablespoons - and if you're feeling bold you can add more still)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200 – 300g dark chocolate (e.g. a block of Whittaker’s dark) smashed into irregular chunks

1) In a microwave-safe jug or a stovetop pan, melt the butter and the sugar together, then let them cool slightly. Add the pumpkin and the yoghurt, stir it together. Gloopy!

2) Whisk up your eggs – ours came from our newly acquired ex-battery hens. 

Hey, ladies! They now have the run of the garden. They also lay their eggs in swappa crates - it’s pretty cute.  Not so cute was when one escaped and had to be chased down the road.

Add the whisked eggs to the rest of the wet mix and give it a good whisk.

3) In a big bowl, combine your dry ingredients. I also added a big pinch of white pepper because it seemed like a good idea.

I measured them with these lovely matroyshka doll measuring cups gifted to me by fellow cake enthusiast Dr Handsome B. Wonderful Esq

4) Add the chocolate, which you totally haven't been picking at, to the dry, then pour in the wet, because that’s how it’s done.

Mix it up efficiently. I use my hands and latex gloves because they are the business and it's a good way to get everything blended without overmixing. It’s quite a thick batter, so you may need to add a splash of milk to loosen it up. 

5) Squelch it into the muffin pan. Pile it high!

6) Bake for 25 – 30 mins on 180°C or until done. Easy peasy.

Serve hot with butter because #YOLO (and then you die of cardiovascular disease at 48).


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A very longwinded recipe for Christmas cake (or any sort of fancy secular fruitcake), complete with a side of smug

Hello internet. It's been a while.

Labour weekend! In Canterbury it is the first holiday / long weekend since Queen’s birthday, the first proper break after the desolate and frosty winter and the moist-windowed early spring, and - weather allowing - the harbinger of summer holidays to come. It is also a good time to make Christmas cake, for a dense fruitcake tastes best when it has had a couple of months to stew in its own juices (ie liquor). It is far richer and more satisfying than the one Mr Ernest Adams makes – no disrespect Ernie, I still like your icing – and is the sort of thing that you can take smugly to pre-Christmas drinks and nibbles type events while everyone else looks shamefaced at their doughy store-bought mince pies, you know, the ones they tarted up with a sprinkle of icing sugar.

This is based on the recipe my mum uses for Christmas cake, which is in a very "retro" / "vintage" cookbook and is attributed to someone called Betty Dunleavy (acknowledge your sources). I did not like it when I was young, in the same way that I did not like mushrooms or broccoli, but it really is very good and over time I have come round to the way of the fruitcake. It is un-iced, but you could rectify that pretty easily, either the labour intensive old fashioned way (family recipes and or the internet will tell you how) or the easy way (store-bought white or almond paste icing). Figure it out yourself, you bum.

I have amended / extended the recipe somewhat, so much so that the original half page recipe is now about four pages long, but I am unapologetic.


  • 1.2kg mixed dried fruit of your choice 
  • 6T / 90ml spirits such as rum, brandy or sweet sherry 

  • 225g butter 
  • 1 1/3c brown sugar 
  • 1t vanilla essence, or almond, if you have no taste 
  • 2T golden syrup (aka two long squirts) 
  • 4 eggs 

  • 60-70g nuts (such as almonds or walnuts), finely chopped 
  • 2 ½c plain white flour 
  • 3T cornflour 
  • ½t baking powder 
  • ½t baking soda 
  • 2t mixed spice 
  • 1t ground nutmeg 

Other things:
  • 70g (one little packet) blanched almonds (optional) 
  • Brown paper 
  • White baking or greaseproof paper 
  • 7 or 8 inch round or square tin 
  • Time and patience 


1) Mix together the fruit

Here’s how my mix broke down. All measurements are approximate because my $7 supermarket-bought scales are a bit rubbish: 
  • 150g apricots 
  • 150g mixed peel – not because I like it that much but because that’s how much there is in the packet and I didn’t want to be wasteful because what else was I going to use it in? (suggestions welcome) 
  • 275g currants – ie what was left in the bag 
  • 175g dried cranberries – ditto 
  • 225g dates 
  • 225g of what appeared to be raisins, but which may have been very sad sultanas 

Both the dates and the apricots came pre-chopped, not because I approve of convenience foods in general but because an extra $1.25 makes up for me getting angry and sticky. It turns out that chopped dates are covered in rice flour to stop them sticking together. This led to much peering at them to make sure that they hadn’t crystallised and gone off but sticking one in my mouth with apprehension sorted that out. 


Note: no disgusting glacé cherries. Bad and wrong. 

2) Sprinkle / pour over the spirits

I rounded up (... a bit) and used mostly brandy and a bit of limoncello out of curiosity. Also, the limoncello has been living in the freezer for months because we keep forgetting to use it. This is how we know we’re grown ups.

Give it a stir. Have a brandy, it’s just sitting there. Leave the fruit somewhere cool overnight...


...or for two days if you end up out most of the day and decide that it’s too late to spend the evening baking a cake for 4 hours and you’d rather watch QI and anyway it's a long weekend.


Give the fruit a wee stir. Yep, it'll be fine.

3) Preheat your oven to 150°C

Poor slow oven.

4) Prepare the tin

This is like arts and crafts, but far more time-consuming and annoying. You need to line your tin with four thicknesses of paper – two brown, two white. According to my recipe “care must be taken to mitre the corners well so that the cooked cake will be of an even shape” but I think that that’s really extra for experts and / or anal people.

I have developed A System for this step, which is fundamentally the same each year, with variations as I either screw up or think of something better. This year’s variation was to have two circles each of brown and white, and two long strips of brown and white, about 65cm long and 25cm wide which I folded in half lengthways and fitted in to one another. I then cut little 1cm slits along one of the edges and folded them up so that when I put it in the tin it would sit nicely.

Spend 5 minutes trying to get the long bit to sit nicely in your broken springform pan before putting the circle bits in the middle.

This probably makes no sense, so here’s a picture. It is probably of limited value as just after I took it I cut the tabs off of the brown circles because I had a better idea. 

Make sure that when you use your snips you have a grown up there to supervise.
Important! Make sure the paper sticks out a couple of inches higher than the top of the tin. I cut mine down even further after this picture when I realised my lovely cuff was too tall for the other tray to go back in the oven (see step 11a).

No mitre-ing needed!

Be thankful that this step is over. I hear there's brandy floating around somewhere.

5) Mix wet things

Put on your apron. Today - piratical.


In a bowl big enough to hold all the things in the world, soften the butter, add the sugar, the essence and the golden syrup and beat them until they are light and creamy. Whip it good. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 

Creamy beige.

See how lovely and orange the yolks are! They are from my mum’s happy chickens. 

6) Sift dry things

Sift the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the mixed spice and the nutmeg together. Realise that you never replaced the cornflour that you used a few weeks back, so substitute it with more flour and hope for the best.

7) Line up all your ingredients

Asparagus is an optional extra.

Aren’t you organised! Note the greenness of the nuts – I am using pistachios to be festive. Get the baking ones, not the brine-y ones unless you like salty pockets in your cake.

8) Get mixing

Add half of the fruit, the dry stuff and the nuts to your buttery wet mix. Unless you have an industrial beater you will need to dust off your Popeye muscles, grab a spoon and do it by hand.

Add the rest and mix until it is thoroughly combined. By this stage I had given up on the spoon and had deployed my favourite kitchen accessories, the latex gloves. 

Great success!

9) Stick it in the tin 

Make sure you don’t mess up all your good paper work. Smoosh it down hard. 

10) Decorate it 

... but only if you feel like it. I’ve used blanched almonds. A wee pack does the trick. You can use those awful cherries too, apparently, but I don’t see why anyone would want to ruin their cake like that. 

Vaseline lensed for your viewing pleasure.

11) Cook it 

The cake will take 3 ½ - 4 hours. Check it after 3 hours with a skewer just to be sure, especially if your oven has a history of angry outbursts.

Before you do the dishes or convince someone else to do them for you, have a taste of the batter. Good, eh!

11a) Take advantage of a hot oven

If you’re not totally fed up with cooking, you might as well cook something that needs a slow oven. You could try meringues, for instance; I'll post a recipe in due course (anywhere from 2 days to 6 months). I went with this great River Cottage recipe for baked rhubarb. How industrious! 

Mr Longbean grew this, but I will eat it.

12) Prepare the cake for lockdown

Once the cake is all cooked and smelling marvellous (go on, have a sniff), let it cool down completely, possibly overnight (which means we are now at DAY FOUR). Remove the paper except for the last layer, or whatever works without ruining the cake. If you are in the mood for more booze, brush the top of the cake with brandy (or whatever), perhaps a tablespoon or so, before wrapping it all up tightly in foil and putting it in an airtight container. 

You can re-brandy the cake every week or so up until you need to eat it. You can eat it right away if you like, but the longer the cake sits, the nicer it will be.


13) Eat it

As long as you keep the cake wrapped up and in an airtight container, it will last for a very, very long time. Forever perhaps! But definitely at least seven months, which is how long the last Christmas cake lasted because we forgot about the last chunk of it.

You are a festive kitchen god/dess! Well done. Have another brandy.

Suggestions, anecdotes and additions welcome, but not complaints. Never complaints.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A very Turducken Thanksgiving, or, how to make a butcher laugh at you

This year I turned 30 on Thanksgiving Thursday and felt that I needed to do something to mark the occasion, preferably with a degree of culinary bombast. I am quite partial to taking on challenges for which I am fairly unqualified - plucking, gutting and roasting a duck at age 14 for a 5 course French meal (it was homework), making a croquembouche in 35 degree heat for a flatmate's civil unionisationing shindig (sugar burns aren't fun), decorating a cake in the shape of a large vulva (chocolate hail pubes!), making 10 litres of alcholic eggnog in a bucket for a Midwinter Christmas (burp), and so on. In this case I felt that it was an apt time to make a turducken for 40 - 50 people, even though I have never roasted anything larger than a greedy chicken let along a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Bansai!

May I highly recommend the services of the good people at Cashmere Cuisine who supplied me with the meat, all of which was organic free range. They didn't even charge me to debone the birds, which I suspect reflected their bemusement.

"So you've done this before then?"
"Oh, you've seen it done then?" 
"... oh." 
"I know what I'm doing!"

... which was mostly accurate.

The night before the morning after

First thing was to sort out the bones - too good a resource to waste. They nearly didn't all fit in the stock pot and after a few hours simmering away we ended up with a thick gelatinous stock sludge that smelled amazing. Most of it is now in the freezer, labelled superstock. Some carrots and celery gave their lives in the name of flavoursomeness.

By this stage the cat had figured out that something exciting and meat related was happening, so she had to be booted out.

 She still had the eye of the tiger though, so credit where it's due.

I decided to make three types of stuffing, which required a lot of bread.

However, I cheated - I knew I was going to run out of time so I used some package stuff (Gregg's "Homestyle", whatever that means) and bulked it out with stock, extra bread and some other ingredients. Often stuff from packets is over-seasoned and super salty but ekeing it out this way seemed to be okay. I would do it properly next time, with better prep, because I am generally a packaged food bigot and I like to know what I'm eating. I'm looking at you, "flavour enhancer".

  • Stuffing 1 was sauteed onion and celery with fresh sage, stock, and two types of bread crumbs.
  • Stuffing 2 was similar, but with less onion and lots of diced dried apricot and sauteed mushroom.
  • Stuffing 3 (not in the picture below, it was in the fridge) was onion sauteed with free range pork sausage (happy pigs make tasty pigs) with grated apple and lots of proper breadcrumbs and stock.

In the interim I had also made a giant carrot cake, just for shits and giggles (also, the batter tastes nice).

I have never brined anything before but I have it on good authority that this is the way to do things (thanks Cat) and I was worried about everything being a bit dry and manky. I got most of my helpful information from here and settled on a mixture of salt, brown sugar and mangled bits of orange. I was going to add more but Mr Longbean told me to stop fussing, probably for the best. There are ice cubes in the left hand one as the water was a bit warm from dissolving the salt and I didn't want to confuse the turkey.

It would have made terrible punch.

Being oblivious, I never really considered how much room this was going to take up as it was far too warm outside to just jam them in the laundry overnight and I didn't want to poison everyone (best birthday surprise ever!) so the Christmas cake got kicked out of its container, the punch bowl was requisitioned and most of the fridge was cleared out.

Gross. The naked bird spa party lasted maybe 12 or 14 hours. The chicken and the duck got to share.

By this stage I had been in the kitchen for nearly 6 hours and was getting tired and grumpy and wanted to sit on the couch and drink beer and watch local satirical comedy. Mr Longbean had bought me a sweet new apron for my birthday, so at least I was still looking good.


After going to the swimming pool and going ffffffffffffffffffffffuuuuuuhhhhh what the hell am I thinking (about the bird, not the pool) I channelled my inner Dexter and prepared the plastic and the gloves.

I love latex gloves, for reals.

Next, the stuffings, warmed slightly after a night in the fridge. You're not really meant to prep the stuffing the day before but there was no way I was going to get up at 5am to start cooking so that's the way it goes. Some extra superstock and fresh-stale bread helped things loosen up a bit.

 Roger Sutton looks on in awe.

I rinsed the birds thoroughly as no one likes having a salt lick for dinner, and patted them dry. The turkey was too mighty for mere paper towels and needed a clean bath towel all of its very own.

I've never really eaten much in the way of turkey that wasn't housed inside a Subway sub, so it's easy to forget that they are humongous. Even with all its bones out this one weighed a good 5kg - I had to weigh it by standing on the bathroom scales, like a vet, only my bird was well past saving.

I seasoned it (and all the other birds) with sumac, because sumac is wonderful and enhances flavour without saltiness and tastes like the flavouring on barbecue flavoured Shapes crackers. Then, I layered stuffing over the top, and then another bird, and so on.

Here is where I made a total rookie error - I overstuffed the birds. Stuffing expands as things cook and it would come back to bite me in the ass later. Oops. At least the bird strata looked lovely.

In the end the chicken was slightly larger than the duck, so instead of a turducken we had a turchickuck, but it doesn't roll off the tongue quite so well and I don't like it when the name of my dinner sounds like someone retching. (See also borscht.)

Pulling the whole thing together took two sets of hands, large and small metal skewers, a needle and thread, brute force and lots of swearing. We pulled the duck together, then the chicken, and held everything mostly together as we went along.

... no comment.

Eventually the whole thing was tied together, although next time (there will be a next time?) I will get a needle with a bigger eye, or smaller string, or something generally less aggravating. We needed pliers to facilitate the sewing process and I nearly got a needle in the eye.

Neither Mr Longbean nor I will make very good field surgeons.

Once everything was sewn up, the skewers were removed and the Russian nesting bird was forced into an enamel roaster. It was rubbed down with olive oil and sumac - I had planned on glazing it with some nice mysterious apricot chutney stuff we got inside a gift basket but in the heat of the moment I forgot.

Hurrah, stick it in the oven at 160°C (fan forced), and all that. So far so good.

When I pulled it out of the oven after an hour I realised the error of my stuffing ways as it looked like a chestburster had been on the scene.

Oops. Covered it with foil, stuck it back in. After another couple of hours I realised that the oven was on the wrong setting and I had a significant panic - see that charring? Might it have been the grill? I dunno, I'm too mortified to say. Luckily the bird was so big that the heat wasn't circulating very evenly anyway so it all worked out well. A mistake not to be repeated.

Meanwhile, I iced the cake with cream cheese frosting and drank a bunch of beer and fizzy wine and generally stressed myself senseless sorting out the house.

After about 6 hours, maybe longer, the bird was done - thanks Mr Oven Thermometer, you were swell and utterly invaluable in making sure I didn't poison 50-odd of my nearest and dearest. My stepfather, who has meat-fu, was put in charge of the carving as it was going to be a bastard trying to get it out of the pan (I'd had a cunning plan for this but forgot to enact it when I first put the bird in to cook). I did not take a picture of the finished bird as it looked rough as guts, and it didn't slice nicely due to the fact that it looked like something had gnawed its way out of the middle. But the finished product was moist and mighty tasty, and it was a bit of a lucky dip as to which bits you got.

Epic pot luck ensued, much food was eaten by many people, the keg was drunk dry and only one glass got broken.

There weren't many leftovers.

It took a lot of time and money but I would definitely do this again. Notes for the future:

  • don't overstuff
  • remember to secure an exit strategy
  • truss better and more aggressively
  • glaze with something interesting
  • make sure to get in line before most of the meat has gone

Thanks for a lovely birthday guys, perhaps next time I'll add a whole piglet or, at the very least, bacon strips.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pinwheel scones, or, lining your stomach before a big day in the sun

My most memorable stein (sorry, tea party) breakfast was an epic fry up (including sweet things) on the bbq for 10 people, all washed down with a magnum of Moet that someone had won. Very classy! It still didn’t stop the usual dramas (passing out from too much sun, getting tearful and upset at trivialities, becoming best friends with someone covered in mud, lipstick lesbian show-kissing, kick to the head in the mosh pit, finding people shagging in the bushes), but it was a good effort nonetheless.

While the organisers these days offer a better rounded and more palatable food and beverage experience than the ill-begotten nacho beans and Export Gold of my undergraduate tea parties, it is still wise to line your stomach in the morning rather than waking up and reaching for the beer bong before you’ve got your costume gaffer taped on.

If you have it within you to be so organised as to cook them the night before, these pinwheel scones will serve beautifully in the morning with a side of beer or cheap fizzy when warmed up in the oven or microwave. They’ll also provide a welcome effort-free dinner once you’ve managed a blurry and nauseous trip back home on the Orbiter, preferably dressed like a buzzy bee, a Transformer made of cardboard boxes, or a slutty [insert noun here]. Don’t drink and fry, kids, or you won’t get your bond back.

Pinwheel scones – one for the baker bots

Scone base
4 1/2 cups white flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
A big pinch of salt
120g butter
Up to 2 cups of milk 

Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees C. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl (I use a punch bowl) – you can sift them together or give it all a quick whisk to remove lumps.

Conventional wisdom would have it that you dice the butter, add it to the flour and then work it in with your fingertips, however I can’t abide the feeling of dough beneath my nails so I do one of two things. The first is to chill the butter and grate it in. The second, lazy version, which many will tell you is heresy (but we did it all the time at the cafe and everything was fine), is to melt the butter and just pour it right in. Either way, add the butter and combine everything well.

Make a well in the middle and pour in most of the milk. ‘Stir’ the dough quickly with a butter knife – things will be getting thick and doughy. Add more milk if it’s a bit dry, or more flour if it’s a bit sloppy. When it’s lovely and soft and not at all sticky, and is staying in one big ball, sprinkle the CLEAN CLEAN bench with flour, turn out the dough in the middle and give it a quick knead with your CLEAN CLEAN hands. Roll the dough out about 1.5cm thick into a big rectangle – the longer your dough is along the edge facing you, the more scones you’ll have. Add your fillings, leaving a strip about an inch wide clear along the edge furthest away from you so as to make sealing the scones easier.

Starting at the edge closest to you, very carefully roll the whole thing away from you into a long roll, then slice to make individual scones. Lightly dust a tray with flour and lay out the scones, leaving a good inch or so in between them. Check them after 10 minutes, and cook until finished – depending on the size of your scones this could take 20 – 25 minutes in all. If you’re unsure, give the dough a poke – if should be firm and spring back against your finger, and the scones should be a light golden brown on the bottom.

If you’re storing these, wait until they are cold before keeping in an airtight container and eat within a couple of days. Give them a quick microwave if they are more than a day old.

Sweet mix
Add 1T cinnamon and 2T sugar to the flour before adding the butter. Spread the rolled out dough with butter or softened cream cheese, then sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon (or spices of your choosing). Add orange or lemon zest or small bits of dried fruit (apricots, sultanas) for extra points. One you have rolled and sliced the pinwheels, sprinkle a bit more cinnamon or raw sugar over the top before you stick them in the oven. These can be made to be quite dainty. Also, imagine how good nutella scones would be.

Savoury mix – aka the Bakehouse special
Add 1 ½ t dried green herbs or paprika and 1/4c cheese to the flour before adding the butter. Spread the rolled out dough with relish, tomato paste, or sweet chilli. Sprinkle it with cheese and add any of the following: chopped up bacon or ham, diced tomato (take out the seeds or it will get sloppy), diced mushrooms, grated courgette, finely shredded spinach, diced onion, fresh green herbs, drained kernel corn. For bonus points, spread the side that is going to be the centre of the pinwheel with a thick glob of cream cheese. Pat the filling down gently with your hands before rolling carefully and slicing. It might get messy, and if things aren’t really sitting still you can hold them together with a skewer while cooking. Sprinkle with cheese and seeds before cooking. These may end up the size of your head.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Everything pie, or, a quiche by any other name would drive off the punters

I’m not sure what people’s antipathy towards quiche is. Maybe it has vague connotations of wankery and the perilous classism of mid 90s cafe culture, maybe it has too many consonants and is pronounced in a way which makes our brutish antipodean ears baulk, maybe it is French. Either way, quiche is pretty much the same thing as bacon and egg pie, but with cream, and is a perfectly acceptable reheated breakfast foodstuff or camping companion. These are eggy pies for people who don’t have the patience to make their own pastry or base, thank heaven and all things good and buttery for our good friends at Ernest Adams.

I don’t see the point in giving exact quantities as pie dishes tend to vary in size from petite and dainty to monstrous tubs and guesstimation is half the fun. Also, as this column continues, I like that things have become increasingly vague as I get tired of measuring things out, and I hope to see this continue.

Piggy pie
  • A pie dish
  • 400g flaky pastry at room temperature (or a couple of pre rolled pastry sheets, joined lovingly together in bakerly union)
  • An onion
  • 8 – 10 eggs
  • 250 – 300g bacon, rind removed
  • A couple of handfuls of grated cheese
  • A tomato, sliced thinly and prettily
  • NO PEAS – they have no place in this pie

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Sprinkle the pie plate with some flour. Roll out the pastry on a lovely clean surface (you can get awesome silicon sheets for this, baking geeks) to 3 – 5mm – you want it to be large enough that you can drape it across the pie plate and still have extra bits hanging down the sides. Do that too.

Slice your onion and bacon into thin strips and sprinkle or layer or thrown them into the pastry lined dish with a handful of cheese, making sure everything is spread out nicely. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife, trying to get as nice a cut edge as possible for maximum puffiness. Don’t throw out the scraps!

You can go two ways here. The good way for people like me who hate the texture of egg yolk is to whisk the eggs gently in a bowl, then tip them over the bacon and onion. The evil way is to crack the eggs directly into the pie, in such a way that they are evenly distributed, and either leave them as is or prick the yolks gently for runny bits. Arrange the tomato on top in a pleasing fashion, sprinkle over some cheese and lots of cracked pepper. Bake at 220 degrees for 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 180 and cook for another 25 - 30 minutes, or until done – the pastry should puff up nicely and the egg in the middle should be puffy but firm if you give it a little prod. If it wiggles suspiciously when you give it a nudge it’s not done, egg’s gotta be set or it looks like ectoplasm.

Everything pie aka eggy pie

As above! But:

This time, instead of the bacon, take everything you think belongs in a pie, chop it up and before lining the tin with pastry, fill it up to make sure you have a good amount of stuff– courgette, broccoli, leeks, onions, tomatoes, one million mushrooms, spring onions, ripped up roast chicken, leftover roast veggies, leftover whatever else, ham, chunks of soft cheese, and so on. Throw all the bits into a big bowl and wipe the pie plate clean before lining it with pastry.

Whisk together 8 or 9 eggs, a couple of big splashes of milk or cream, some pepper and a handful of fresh green herbs and add it to the bowl of everything. Toss it together to make sure everything is coated. It will look like snot salad, no joke. Pour it into the pie dish, sprinkle on some cheese and add a small drizzle of a chutney of your choice or sweet chilli sauce, and cook as above. Dinner and tomorrow’s lunch, sorted.

A word about thriftiness: You have options with your pastry scraps. You can amalgamate them, roll them out and cut long strips out of them to create a pretty lattice pattern on top of the pie before putting it in the oven, like out of a nice picture book about animals who bake. Or, you can roll them out, sprinkle on grated cheese, fold it, roll it out again, and repeat the whole process, then cut them into strips, prick them with a fork and bake them in the oven on a tray = cheesy straws! Or you can make little jam tarts, being aware that hot jam is hot and hot jam can burn. Aren’t you clever.